running-advice-bugThe marathon is a long race and requires a level of precision to hit a specific goal time. If you’re running for a specific time, there are to me four key moments that will determine how well you do, whether you meet your goals, and whether you’ll hit the wall or sail on through it. Today, let’s take a look at those four moments and think about why each of these is critical to your race day performance.

A runner at the 2012 Vancouver Marathon. Photo: Joe English

A runner at the 2012 Vancouver Marathon. Photo: Joe English

All running races require a level of pre-planning that goes way back to the beginning of the season when your training schedule was constructed. Having laid out a plan and done the work, race day is the execution of the strategy that was embodied by that plan. Where many marathon runners mess it all up is by changing up their goals or strategy on race day — or to put it another way, by forgetting what they did in training or not following their own plan. That’s why these four moments become so critical: they keep you glued to the plan that you’ve trained to execute.

Moment #1 — Twenty minutes before the race — My first and perhaps most critical moment comes just before the race. Before taking a single step of the race, and before the gun goes off, I like to spend five minutes of quiet reflection thinking through my training and what I have set out to do in this particular race. Twenty minutes is usually just before I hit the start corral, after my warm-up, and before all the singing and fireworks start. It’s also when I take a first energy gel to get the energy pump primed. I spent a few minutes asking myself some key questions and reminding myself of what I set out to do. “How did this training go in comparison to how I thought it might go?”; “How are the conditions today as compared to the way that I envisioned them?”; “I am ready to run XX time and that’s what I plan to do.” This is my final review of how things went and a reminder that grounds me to my actual capability on the day.

In my last national Duathlon competition this Summer I recall giving myself a reminder that I had not come to that race to win, but only to qualify for a spot on the next year’s team. The course wasn’t what I expected and my training had been weak due more than expected travel. Pulling myself out of the pre-race hype right before the race, helped me calm down and have more reasonable expectations. I did this while lying on the grass and talking about my expectation with my partner. She helped me remember what I was trying to do on the day and this stayed with me all through the race.

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running-advice-bugIt’s not very often that I actually ask a manufacturer to send me a product to test. I pick out the best gear for myself and my athletes, but taking time to write about it all doesn’t rank that highly on my to-do list. But when it came to the Pearl Izumi Tri Fly Octane Triathlon Cycling shoe, I had to make an exception. I needed to try out these shoes and they didn’t disappoint me.

Pearl Izumi's fantastic Tri Fly Octane cycling shoe

Pearl Izumi’s fantastic Tri Fly Octane cycling shoe

I first saw the Tri Fly Octane while on a visit to triathlon gear e-tailer Trisports.com down in Tucson. What will strike you upon picking up the shoe — after the bright orange color — is the weight of the shoe. This shoe is quite literally half the weight of any other shoe around it on the triathlon shelf. At 185 grams, they are ridiculously light. For comparison, my previous shoe weighed 295 grams. And while I’m not usually obsessed with weight, these shoes are so much lighter than anything else I have seen that it really stands-out.

The lightness of the shoe comes from a combination of things. One of them is the mostly-mesh upper on the shoe. This reduces the amount of bulky material, but it also lets a lot more air through the shoe and lets water drain out quickly. This is a bonus when you have wet feet getting into the shoes in T1. The flip-side is that riding in this shoe on a cold-rainy day is not that much fun. My booties needed to make an appearance early this Fall.

The shoe sports a carbon-fiber base that makes it very strong. Even for a powerful cyclist that likes to push the pedals hard like me, it provides an un-flinching platform to push against.

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Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

running-advice-bugDeena Kastor remains one the greatest American distance runners and she showed that off to the world this weekend by crushing the World Record for Master’s women runners in the half-marathon. In running 1:09:21 she busted some other world master’s marks along the way, including for the 15K, 10 miles and 20K.

Kastor after Rock N Roll Philly 2014; Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun

Kastor after Rock N Roll Philly 2014; Photo: Andrew McClanahan PhotoRun

Kastor is no stranger to running fast. In addition to taking the bronze medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and holding the American record for the marathon, she also holds American records for the half-marathon, 15K, 8k and 5K. She’s also won the London and Chicago Marathons. Her 5K personal best of 14:51.62 is pretty smokin’ fast.

I met Kastor over ten years ago and I remember feeling that I dwarfed the diminutive runner, whose arm at the bicep was about as big around as my wrist. At 5′ 4″ and about 104 pounds she’s small but mighty fast. She is a source of inspiration for many runners, not only due to her speed but due to her longevity and the calm and class that she exudes when she talks about running.

Famed running commentator John Bingham called the race this weekend. He said on Facebook afterward, “. . .to be able to talk to her and listen to her speak with grace and humility and gratitude was as inspirational as her performance.”

After the race, Kastor remarked “I went through a rollercoaster of emotions. Today’s race was a benchmark. “It was really humid out there and I didn’t feel great, but I ran fast so I’m thrilled.”

Kastor reportedly plans to run the New York City Marathon this year and may take another shot at the US Olympic Marathon team in 2016.

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Posted by: Joe English | September 10, 2014

Pros and Cons of Taking Breaks from #Running and #Cycling

running-advice-bugSometimes you have to take time off from your running or cycling workout routine. Whether it be due to an injury or other life events, there are times when we just can’t get to it. During those times we athletes can beat ourselves up and feel that we are “getting behind,” but we shouldn’t despair. It’s not all bad news; there are actually pros and cons to taking breaks. Let’s think about those today.

First, let me give you a piece of advice before we jump into the pros and cons. When you do have to take a break, embrace it. Tell yourself that you are on a break. Don’t try to throw one workout in and try to get back to it when whatever’s in the way is still there. One odd workout in a month of time off doesn’t help much and it may just make you feel lousy about starting and stopping. Embrace the break and then when you can get back to it fully commit to getting back to it!

Now let’s think through some pros and cons of taking breaks:

The big con #1 that jumps out right away (it’s what you’re all thinking about) is the loss of fitness: Yes, there is a loss of fitness during breaks so we don’t want to embrace so many breaks that we don’t ever train. The loss of fitness tends to hit your long endurance and top speed first. So what you may see when starting back up again is that you can still run or ride, and you may even be able to go pretty hard, but you won’t last long and you won’t be as sharp as normal. I’ve been known to do a sprint triathlon or a 5K race even after taking a month or so off. I wouldn’t expect to PR and I wouldn’t try that with a marathon or half-Ironman, but if it is something short and quick the body often remembers.

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running-advice-bugHere’s a question that I can throw at you today. Will YouBeRu (#YouBetterRun) be the next Instagram or Uber? Perhaps not for everyone, but if this one takes off athletes, race directors, live sports event producers and spectators may one day follow athletes in a whole new way.

Smartphone AppIf you follow my writings on my Event Futurist blog, you’ll know that I believe that technology has the power to transform live events, connecting people and enhancing their experiences. This is true of many new technologies that help share content among event participants and that help connect participants with one another. In the sports event production space, there have been many great advances in athlete tracking and monitoring as well. Way back in 2005 I worked on a project to bring live video feeds to the courses on Ironman triathlons and things have gotten progressively better from there. Spectating at Marathons and Ironman Triathlons is tricky, because athletes don’t always move at constant speeds — and even when they do it’s hard to figure out where they are with complicated wave starts and only best guess estimates for their pace on race day.

Systems that track participants for the most part still rely on timing mats along courses, which means that data about an athlete’s progress only happens when (and after) an athlete has crossed a mat, generating a time “split” or event for the system to track. Yes there are some more exotic methods of tracking athletes such as placing small cellular transmitters on bikes as they have done at times in a races like the Tour de France or extrapolating performance like the Boston Marathon did in its app this year. But the field is still open for an app or system that collects live data on athletes to help spectators know exactly where they are or will be on a race course so that they can see them, cheer for them and be there to give high-fives and hugs.

YouBeRun BraceletEnter a new start-up from Denmark called YouBeRu, which operates under the very poignant hashtag #YouBetterRun. The idea behind this new technology is to harness the power of smartphones to act as the timing mats. Participants wear a wrist band that sends out a signal and people with the app on their phones become the receivers along the course. This means that each time an athlete wearing a band goes by someone on the course, the data is collected and shared with users of the app. The idea here is to create a grid of timing locations that is much more dense than the number of mats that you can put out on a race course.

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Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

running-advice-bugWhether you’ve been running a long time or are relatively new to it, there can be a sense of fatigue that sets in when running the same routes, the same miles and at the same time of day. Even those runner friends of yours might start sounding a little boring after awhile. It’s not like you want to hear another story about the difficulty of their job, is it? Some people use music to distract them from these feelings and I often hear people say they “can’t run without music.” I think they can. I think you can. It’s just a matter of spicing things up a bit. Today, I’m going to give you five ways to make your run more interesting and I’m not including changing up your playlist.

Five Ways to Make Your Run More Interesting
Joe and Cal at Crater Lake1. Go somewhere new and get out of your “route rut” — I have an interesting perspective on this one. I travel a lot. I mean a lot a lot. When I’m on the road, every run is more fun. I’m exploring a new city, trying not to get lost, and perhaps keeping out of danger in certain places. But it helps me see that there is a freshness that comes with running in new or different places. Now, I understand that not everyone can be on the go as much as I am, but there’s more than one place to run in your own city. I’m constantly amazed when I find myself running down some new road that’s within a mile of my home. I’ve lived in the same place now for almost 10 years and I’m still finding new neighborhoods and places to run. So if you’re feeling stuck in a “route rut” then make it a goal to run a different direction, explore a new neighborhood or just go someplace else to run. Ask your friends where they run. I’m constantly surprised by the answers I get and I’ve found some fun new roads just by asking around.

2. Run your route backwards (not literally!) — If you really do have the same route that you run all of the time, run it backwards from time to time. You will be surprised how different the hills and turns feel when you’re going in the opposite direction. And no, you silly heads, I do not mean physically running backwards. Although running backwards would also be fun, albeit slower and more dangerous!

3. Play a game — As a parent I have become somewhat of an expert in occupying a busy little mind. Yesterday I was on a plane next to a four year-old girl named Ryan who was pretty bored. I kept her busy by giving her mind something to think about. We played “I Spy” out the window of the plane for quite some time. You may need to distract your own brain at times by giving it something else to think about other than putting one foot ahead of another. Think about how much more difficult it is to run for a long time on a treadmill than outside and you’ll know what I’m talking about. 30 minutes on the treadmill can be torture. This is because there’s nothing to look and the senses just get bored. A couple of my favorite games when running — reading every road sign (you will be amazed how many there are), jumping every puddle, and seeing how many coins you can collect on a single run (the key here is to look at the place where cars make right turns at an intersection by a cross-walk and there is a little grit and gravel built up. Go figure.). There are more elaborate games you can play with people, but think about things you do with kids and it will be a good start.

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Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

running-advice-bugYou’re making your way through a long season. You’ve been training for months. You’re about half-way through and all of the sudden. . . it feels so hard to work out everyday. Your race suddenly feels so far off. I call this the “Mid-season Blues” and when it hits, it can be really hard to kick.

lone_runnerToday I’ll give you four ways that you can beat the Mid-season Blues to get that training on-track and re-focus yourself for your big upcoming race:

First Keep an eye on your goal. Everything you do is preparing you for your ultimate goal of completing your marathon or other event. If you’ve lost sight of the goal, take a moment to reflect on it. Go on-line and look at pictures or read about your race. Visit the event’s web-site. Do some fundraising. Talk to people about the race, as opposed to your training. Tell people how excited you are about it (even if you are not!). These things will help you re-ground yourself with the goal. I often find that when I find myself feeling stressed about half-way through a season, I repeat to myself (usually when I am on the track) “this is the workout that made the difference at (my race).” I make a mental stake-in the ground that each day is important and I can picture finishing a race strong, feeling that whatever workout I did that particular day is the one that my competitors didn’t do.

Second, know that everything you do is cumulative. You may have heard me use an analogy that the marathon is kind of like doing a lot of push-ups. If you were to set out to do a whole bunch of push-ups, the first ones would be easy and then you would get progressively more tired. This is fatigue setting in from the repetition of the movement you are doing. You don’t actually weigh more as you do more push-ups, it just feels like it. The way that we get stronger is to keep doing push-ups and eventually you can do more of them before you get tired. It’s the same with running or walking a marathon, you’re just taking steps instead of doing push-ups. The middle of the season is the time when you are doing repetitions that will allow you to go further without getting so tired. It may feel a long a like road, but it is the road you need to be on to get where you are going.

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Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

Posted by: Joe English | August 13, 2014

Five Reasons to Run the Crater Lake Marathon #marathon #running

running-advice-bugIf ever there were a bucket-list race that is overlooked it might be the Crater Lake Rim Runs Marathon. This past weekend I ran the event and today I provide you my list of the Top Five Reasons you should run this amazing and different marathon.

Five Reasons to Run the Crater Lake Marathon

Sunrise at Crater Lake before the 2014 Marathon

Sunrise at Crater Lake before the 2014 Marathon

1. You get to run a marathon around the rim of a volcano. Talk about unique settings. In the first half of the race, you can just turn your head to the right and see views of one of the most beautiful natural wonders you will ever see. Crater Lake sits inside a collapsed volcano and you are literally running around the rim of the volcano’s crater. This pretty much beats the typical run through city streets of most marathons.

2. You want to really, really, challenge yourself. This sucker is hard. I would say that Crater Lake is one of the toughest marathons you’ll find anywhere. Included on the list of what makes this one so tough is the fact that the race course is entirely above 6,000 feet elevation and peaks out at over 7,750 feet. Also, you’ll have some nasty climbs to deal with and almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain. If that weren’t enough, one of the toughest hills on the entire course is set between miles 22 and 24 — just when you’re feeling freshest.

Elevation profile of the Crater Lake Marathon

Elevation profile of the Crater Lake Marathon

3. You want to run some serious descents. The up hill climbs may get all of the press, but running down hill can be equally tricky. It may not require as much effort, but it can tear through your quads and leave you trembling. Get ready for some big descents. The course tips downward from it’s peak about mile 14 and is almost all down until mile 22. Ouch.

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Why do you have to click to continue reading? Our blog was originally hosted here on WordPress and many, many people follow us here. So we post these excerpts as a courtesy to our readers but our main site is now our self-hosted http://www.running-advice.com which has way more stuff, including our video library, Amazon store and a guide to our more important articles. It is all still free.

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